January 4, 1769, The British Navy Changes Impressment Tactics, 425 Days to the Boston Massacre
January 4, 1769, Wednesday The British Coastal Guards Change Tactics
In unison, 248 years ago, British Naval forces were stopping coastal brigs that transported supplies from one Colonial town to another. There were any number of legitimate reasons a coastal brig would have more on board than shown on the manifest. They may well have imported forty casks of rum as they entered Boston harbor and picked up additional casks for delivery in the Colonies. Prior to the British occupation of Boston, commercial ship captains were not concerned if the item they were conveying properly paid the customs fees at its port of entry.
One British vessel on this day found a barrel of Madeira wine, labeled as vinegar, on a Portsmouth bound ship. This would appear to be a local merchant’s attempt to prevent seizure of a product cherished by the British naval officers.
Officers and crew of the British Navy benefitted financially in the confiscation of smuggled goods. Consequently, the Townshend Acts were broadly interpreted to their financial advantage. Officers acted more like forensic accountants. The number of vessels boarded increased dramatically from this day forward. Proportionately, the number of commercial seamen, removed from their ships, expanded under impressment rules. Compounding emotions, commercial seamen were pressed as involuntary witnesses for subsequent Admiralty Court proceedings against the alleged smuggler.
The smuggling trial of John Hancock was in recess this day.
Boston Evening Post, provided in A Journal of the Times from University of Michigan Libraries, originally printed by Chapman & Grimes, Mount Vernon Press, p. 43-44.
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